The president of Kenya yesterday flagged off the first cargo train to ride the new standard gauge railway (SGR) between the coastal city of Mombasa and the capital, Nairobi.
The ceremony signalled the official opening of the $3.2bn Chinese-financed and built line, which has completed 18 months early.
The biggest infrastructure project in the country since independence from Britain in 1964, the SGR is deemed so crucial to Kenya’s economic development that president Uhuru Kenyatta warned today that anyone convicted of a capital offence for vandalising it would be be hanged.
The foundation we are laying today is not just for us, it’s for generations to come– Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya
The new railway is expected to result in a 40% cut in the cost of cargo transport between Mombasa and Nairobi. The time taken to transport goods will reduce from the current 16-24 hours to a maximum of eight hours.
His declaration came after four people were arrested in connection with the discovery of vandalised guardrails.
Kenyatta also took time to praise the efforts of the builders.
"This [railway] indicates what we can achieve if we work together as a nation," he said, reports Capital News. "The foundation we are laying today is not just for us, it’s for generations to come."
Financed 90% by the Export-Import Bank of China, the new Chinese-built route is aimed at cementing Kenya’s position as the gateway to East Africa. The 470km line will eventually extend beyond Nairobi to connect its land-locked neighbours, including Uganda.
Last week, Kenyatta secured an additional $3.6bn from China to extend the railway line 250km (155 miles) west from the central town of Naivasha to Kisumu, reports BBC News.
Image: A train carries out a test run on Kenya’s new Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway on 25 May 2017 (Xinhua/Chen Cheng)